Like it or dislike it, IVRs are here to stay, at least for now!

When you travel by public transport to office, you get to know people that you meet everyday only during the transit time. If you are social kind, you may make good friends with some them. Generally you meet on the way, sit together, have some chat till the destination comes.

This is how not too long ago I met Mr. Murthy. A cool and easy person, never used to fight for his senior citizen rights to get a seat on BMTC buses (he was much senior than me).

One day he was furious. It was evident. He boarded the bus, stomped along and sat next to me. Instead of usual greetings, he took off.

"You are an IT guy, aren't you"?

I knew something was coming! Before answering him I tried to imagine what he might have messed up with. Is this his TV? Radio? Mobile? I was clueless so had to nod yes.

"And you know what *!@##@!$ are these people when they put my call to some machine... Why do they do that"?

OK I am saved! He had a bad experience with some IVR. It is a relief to me. But I asked him what had happened.

It seems he had to book some train ticket to visit his son and his family. He wanted to make it a surprise to meet them on their anniversary. So somewhere he got hold of the number 139, which is supposed to be the one stop shop for Indian Railway. He just wanted to know if there are enough berths in the train so that he could go to station and purchase a ticket for his own.

So one fine morning (the day it happened) he made a call to 139 and all hell broke loose.

I called them ten times. Each time they kept telling me how to keep trains clean and as a citizen my duty is to spread cleanliness. Come on! I need an information. I know how to keep my surroundings clean!

Image © Aleksandar Panic |

It was soon when the stress took better of him and he decided to go to the station to find out himself whether the ticket is available. I did help him to find the status using my phone internet, and he was so happy that there actually were some ticket left. The expression on his face was priceless.

We criticise customer support calls, make fun of them, create memes and spread over Internet, but on that day I met a person who had no other option but IVR to know the train ticket availability. He had a phone, and he knew how to dial.

IVRs indeed are not something that can be written off, not just yet. Billions of people in the world use it everyday to get their problems solved. This is a complete different scenario that using IVRs can potentially make you question your own sanity after a while, but they are not the problem by themselves. The way we implement them is the root cause behind all problems related to IVR.

Most of the IVRs today are overloaded with options. Sometimes a menu running more than 10 - 15 options where the user has to listen to each of them carefully and ensure she is pressing the right button. Companies need to understand someone tries to contact customer care only when they are in desperate need. It is in the interest of the company to help them reach to the solution in the shortest way possible.

Perhaps a way to show IVR menu in a visual manner will reduce the amount of anxiety a person has to face when the mechanical voice keeps saying the options one after another, and with beating heart the customer needs to listen keenly so that she does not miss the required option.

Have you ever thought a visual IVR could be useful? Or have you used one that made your life easy? Let me know as comments!